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Enforcement and Removal

New program enhances identifying and deporting criminal aliens in 6 southwest Texas counties

Now criminal and immigration records of all detainees to be checked

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Six southwest Texas counties have been added to a growing list of law enforcement agencies throughout the state that are receiving access to a program developed by the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS); this program is expected to bolster local efforts to identify dangerous deportable criminal aliens.

Maverick, Val Verde, Kinney, Zavala, Real and Uvalde counties have been added to the program known as "Secure Communities." The program, administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), streamlines the process for ICE to determine if an individual in local custody is a potentially deportable criminal alien. Under the program, the immigration records, if any, of every individual booked into the county will be checked.

Formerly as part of that booking process, arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the DOJ biometric system maintained by the FBI. With the implementation of Secure Communities, the fingerprints of arrested individuals will now be simultaneously checked against both the FBI's criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by DHS.

If an individual's fingerprints match those of a person in the DHS fingerprint system, the new automated process will notify ICE and the participating agency submitting the fingerprints. ICE will evaluate each case to determine the individual's immigration status and take appropriate enforcement action. Top priority will be given to offenders who pose a threat to the public safety, such as aliens with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping.

"Secure Communities is a new effort to identify and ultimately remove dangerous criminal aliens from our communities," said Executive Director for ICE Secure Communities David Venturella. "Our goal with this ICE program is to use technology to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our local law enforcement partners."

"The IDENT system now in operation in Kinney County will not only take the criminal off the streets of our County, but will remove the criminal alien out of our country," said Buddy Burgess, Kinney County sheriff. "The system is used on every person booked into our jail. We appreciate ICE giving us another tool to fight crime in our community," he added.

Secure Communities enhances the ongoing joint efforts by ICE and the sheriff's departments in the six South West Texas counties to identify criminal aliens in the counties' jail systems and process them for deportation. Zavala County began its participation last week, and Uvalde County began the week before. Maverick, Val Verde, Kinney and Real counties began participating in Secure Communities at the end of last year; more Texas counties are expected to participate in the near future. Eventually, in collaboration with DOJ and other DHS components, ICE plans to expand this capability to all state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.

Secure Communities is the cornerstone of DHS's comprehensive plan to distribute technology that links local law enforcement agencies to both FBI and DHS biometric systems. DHS's US VISIT Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) holds biometrics-based immigration records, while the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) contains biometric-based criminal records.

"US VISIT is proud to support the Secure Communities program, helping provide decision makers with comprehensive, reliable information when and where they need it," said US VISIT Director Robert Mocny. "By enhancing the interoperability of DHS's and the FBI's biometric systems, we are able to give federal, state and local decision makers information that helps them better protect our communities and our nation."

"Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens. Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the strong relationships already forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving their goals," said FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Assistant Director Tom Bush.

Secure Communities is a key facet of ICE's enforcement priority to identify, locate and deport criminal aliens and builds on the growing success of the agency's Criminal Alien Program. In fiscal year 2008, ICE identified more than 221,000 potentially deportable aliens incarcerated nationwide. This fiscal year, the agency anticipates spending more than $1 billion on such efforts, which in addition to Secure Communities, also includes expansion of the agency's Criminal Alien Program and Fugitive Operations Program.

More information about ICE's Secure Communities program is available at www.ice.gov.